The famous conservationist Jane Goodall is hopeful that people can fight climate change and nature loss. She received the Templeton Prize for her work on Thursday.
In an interview with AFP, the primatologist said she was hopeful that COVID-19 could change people’s approach to how we interact with Earth.
“We basically brought this on ourselves by our disrespect of the natural world, forcing animals closer to people, making it easier for a pathogen to jump from an animal to a person,” said Goodall.
Goodall called the way humans treat animals an “absolute disrespect of animals –hunting them, killing them, eating them, capturing them, trafficking them, forcing them into terrible conditions, unhygienic and very, very cruel intensive factory farms.”
“So hopefully, this pandemic has woken people up. We must develop a new relationship with the natural world,” she said.
It’s all about money
As Western nations start making steps towards exiting the pandemic, Goodall warned against the temptation to rush back to unrestricted economic growth at the planet’s expense.
“Unfortunately, there are too many people in power who are just eager to get back to business as usual. It’s all about the bottom line, about money,” she said. “We have to somehow create a more sustainable, greener economy. We have to have a new mindset for our survival.”
Goodall, 87, has dedicated her life to better understanding the animal kingdom and promoting conservation efforts. She shot to international stardom in 1965 when she was featured on the cover of National Geographic for her revolutionary research on chimpanzees in Tanzania.
Her up-close study of the behavior of chimpanzees in the 1960s was the first to observe them using tools, a capacity that was until then thought to belong only to humans. In the decades since, Goodall has advocated for sustainable practices and preserving nature.
Usually a frequent traveler, she said the pandemic had forced her to change her activism. Last year, she launched Hopecast, a podcast urging listeners to be hopeful for the future of the planet.
“Almost everything I do has hope in it. If you don’t hope that your actions are going to make change, why bother to act?” she said.
“I’ve seen projects that are completely turning things around. Areas that we have utterly destroyed… nature can come back if we give her a chance. Animals on the brink of extinction can be given a second chance,” she added.
“If we get together now before it’s too late, we can indeed slow down climate change and slow down biodiversity loss,” Goodall said.
Heather Templeton Dill, president of the John Templeton Foundation that awards the prize, said Goodall was selected for her scientific breakthroughs that “have profoundly altered the world’s view of animal intelligence and enriched our understanding of humanity”.
Goodall, who said she was “kind of blown away” to win, said she believed the world was reaching a “critical mass of people” who were passionate about preserving nature.
“None of us can absolutely predict what’s going to happen. So we just have to go on doing what we can do in the belief that we do have this window of time where we have to work really hard at changing governments, changing business and changing the mindsets of ordinary people,” she said.
“I don’t pretend to have all the answers. All I know is I am here to do everything I can to move us in the right direction. That’s all I can do. And that’s what I’ll spend the rest of my life doing.”
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